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"Lazzeri was combing his hair and-zoom!-the brush flew out of his hand and hit the wall," Koenig recalls. "He was having an epileptic fit. Then he flopped on the floor and started convulsing. I was stark naked, but I ran out in the hall and banged on Waite Hoyt's door. I knew he was a coroner's helper. He got Lazzeri's head up and his tongue out.
"Lazzeri only had those fits in the morning. That's what finally killed him, you know. He had one of those fits coming down the stairs and broke his neck."
Hoyt led Yankee pitchers in 1927 with 22 victories. Wiley Moore, a 30-year-old rookie who both started and relieved, added 19 wins and led the league with a 2.28 ERA. Herb Pennock also won 19 games; Urban Shocker, 18. The pin-stripers' pitching staff was murderous too. Dutch Ruether and George Pipgras combined for another 23 wins.
Koenig doesn't accept the argument that pitchers are harder to hit now because of their variety of pitches.
"Today they have split-fingered fast-balls, but back then they had spitballs, shineballs, mudballs," he says. "And you never got a nice white ball to hit all the time. The guys would throw the ball around the infield. They all chewed tobacco and rubbed the ball up. You don't have that problem today."
The two other starters were Jumping Joe Dugan, the third baseman who hit .269 and received his nickname because of his quickness in pouncing on bunts, and catcher Pat Collins, who played in 89 games and batted .275.
Koenig batted .318 in 1928, his last season as the Yankees' regular shortstop, and New York made it another World Series sweep, this time over the Cardinals. The following year, a brash young player with a quick lip, Leo Durocher, played most of the season at shortstop. Koenig filled in at third base while hitting .292.
In 1930 the Yankees sold Koenig to Detroit. After two years with the Tigers, and a brief try at pitching, he was asked to manage in the minors. He said no, and Detroit sold him to the San Francisco Missions of the Triple A Pacific Coast League. He was only 28, but he was convinced his big league days were over. Then gunshots resurrected his career.
Cub shortstop Billy Jurges was shot twice by a woman in a hotel room in July 1932. Although he recovered enough to play 115 games that season, Jurges hit only .253, and the Cubs were looking for some punch for the pennant drive. They enlisted Koenig, who joined Chicago when the team was six games out of first. Koenig went on an offensive tear, hitting .353 over 33 games and sparking new life in the Cubs, who won the National League championship by four games over Pittsburgh.
The Cubbies' reward was the Yankees. In spite of Koenig's valuable role in September, his teammates voted him only a half share of the World Series pot. "I thought it was kind of cheap," he says. So did Babe Ruth.